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The GNU Logo from Wikipedia

"GFDL" stands for GNU Free Documentation License (GNU is an acronym for "GNU's Not Unix" and is related to software[1]). It was developed by the Free Software Foundation[2] (FSF) as a way of licensing manuals in a manner that is similar to the GPL software license[3]. All of these acronyms are likely very confusing. Here are the important things to know about the GFDL:

  • It is a copyleft (Share Alike) license used primarily for text and images.
  • The largest user of the GFDL is Wikipedia.
  • It requires a copy of the entire license to be attached to the resource licensed. This includes printouts and even applies when you use only a single image or paragraph.
  • Currently it is not compatible with Creative Commons licensing. In December 2007 Wikipedia announced its intention to become compatible with Creative Commons licensing (Various, "Resolution"). However, this transition will take some time.
  • You should use the GFDL if compatibility with Wikipedia is important; otherwise, a Creative Commons license may be preferable. This recommendation may change as the Free Software Foundation updates and revises the license.

Should you decide to use the GFDL, you should include the following HTML code in the web page (consult an instructional designer or someone familiar with web programming if you are not familiar with HTML):

<table><tr><td valign="center"><img src="" width="88px" height="31px"></a></td><td valign="center"><b>GFDLcontent</b> <small>The work on this page is licensed under the <a href="">GNU Free Documentation License</a>. The author states that the text and images can be used within the restrictions of this license (for example, they can be incorporated into certain free encyclopedias such as <a href="">Wikipedia</a>). Please add a footer like this to your own webpages to promote free access to knowledge (<a href="">see Wikipedia's instructions</a>).</small></td></tr></table>


  1. The GNU Project, launched in 1984, to develop an operating system which is free software:


Adding a GFDL License. Wikipedia. Retrieved June 2, 2008, from
GNU Project. (Last Updated 2008, April 10). GNU Free Documentation License. Retrieved March 23, 2008,
-. (2008, March 20). Overview of the GNU System. Retrieved March 23, 2008, from
Wikimedia Foundation. (2007, December 1). Resolution:License update. Retrieved March 25, 2008, from